Barbara Hershey, who also appears in two (but not all) of Scorsese’s movies where someone gets crucified, sees her cropduster daddy die then hits the Depression-era road. She and family friend Von (Bernie Casey of The Man Who Fell to Earth, In the Mouth of Madness) and railworker Bill (David Carradine, whose dad plays a railroad bigwig) meet up in various places and get into hijinks. Good performances, especially in the second half, and some sharp editing, but this is more a Roger Corman period adventure story than anything else.

Bertha caught between two Carradines:

The cops and strikebreakers in this are real pieces of shit. She meets a moneyman called Rake, she shoots a guy who calls everyone he dislikes a red, and she jailbreaks her friends… there’s a nice classic car wreck off a cliff, another gets smashed by a train, there are some shotgun murders, and Bertha and friends become professional bank robbers. She’s freed from a whorehouse by Von, but both guys finally get busted.

Von taking care of business:

Strikebreaker on the left would become a Scorsese regular, mustache guy would disappear.

Grungy camera work, uneven sound mixing, very Cassavetes-ish dialogue and behavior though apparently it’s an entirely May-created work, based on small-time gangsters she’d grown up around. It’s part 358 in my ongoing series “What Do People See in the Cinema of the 1970’s?” though it’s easy to admire after it’s over. Cassavetes is unpleasant to be around – racist, sexist, prone to fits of destruction and paranoia – and everyone wants him dead, including his friend Falk, who is informing hit man Ned Beatty of their movements across the city. As the peripheral women, we’ve got Joyce Van Patten (Monkey Shines mom) as John’s unamused wife, May regular Rose Arrick as Peter’s complicit wife, and the unknown Carol Grace as their lonely plaything/victim.

On Letterboxd: “Boyfriends and Girlfriends” by Low

Our happy boys, everything going great:

Ned, reflecting a marquee showing The Laughing Policeman and Fist of Fury:

Her Majesty wishes to have knowledge, so her whitehatted sorcerer summons the angel Ariel. This is awesome, and is the last awesome thing that will happen in the film, which jumps to present-day artpunk, deteriorating into campy self-satisfied in-jokes as the novelty wears off and it stretches painfully to feature length.

The Past:

Jarman’s second feature after a decade of shorts costars Adam Ant, who lip-sync-fronts a live band. One of the Bowie-wannabe youth is Nell Campbell who somehow specialized in maximalist rock films, also appearing in Rocky Horror and The Wall and Lisztomania. A spirit named Ariel and an actor named Orlando seem to productively predict future, better films.

The Present:

It’s strange to see space alien Bruno S. playing someone besides Kaspar Hauser. Here he’s playing a version of himself, as are many of the actors, who autobiographically collaborated with Herzog on his hastily-written Germany-to-USA adventure. Reformed criminal/music lover Bruno helps Eva Mattes (Petra von Kant‘s daughter) while she’s on the run from her thug pimps (one of whom would later play Vigo in Ghostbusters II). The thugs barge in, assault Bruno and break his accordion. The neighbor who looks after Bruno (Kaspar Hauser fan-favorite Clemens) is leaving for Wisconsin, so Bruno and Eva join him.

Bad luck right off the bat as customs confiscates Bruno’s mynah bird (using its real voice, which is a big deal for birds in cinema). Werner discovers Weird Wisconsin immediately, filming two neighboring farmers on tractors with rifles. Bruno’s house is taken away for non-payment… not making enough cash as a waitress, Eva returns to prostitution and runs off with some truckers… and Clemens is arrested for robbery (the bank was closed so he robs the barber next door). Everything around him going to hell, poor Bruno wanders a live-bird amusement park then kills himself on a ski lift.

The credits thank Errol Morris, Les Blank and the documentarian who discovered Bruno in West Berlin. Supposedly Ian Curtis killed himself right after watching this movie, and yeah it’s a downer, but one night earlier I’d coincidentally watched New Order’s live set from Coachella 2013, and after seeing what a crank Bernard Sumner can be, I wouldn’t be so quick to blame the film.

Jackie Chan is Wong Fei Hung, a versatile character last seen as a child in Millionaires’ Express, and previously in Once Upon a Time in China. Here he’s a prankster and scammer who needs to be taught discipline by his great drunken uncle. Jackie is put through weeks of tedious strength-training exercises, doesn’t see the point in it all until the final fight when he has internalized the teachings of the Eight Drunken Gods and he gets wasted and destroys the bounty hunters trying to murder his dad over a land deal. Karate Kid was a sober teen remake.

Wonder if I am the first person of 2022 to unsuspectingly watch this movie after buying the Party Dozen single.

New kid Jackie had started getting star roles in ’76. His drunken master Red-Nosed Su is the director’s dad Yuen Siu-Tien, also of Come Drink With Me and other films with drunky titles. Powerful hit-man Thunderleg is Hwang Jang-Lee of Game of Death II, and Jackie’s dad Lam Kau was in As Tears Go By.

States (1967)

I’ve watched this one before… was hoping I got a higher-quality copy, but nope. Sometimes the water is a torrent, sometimes slight drips that look like sparks. Fully white-on-black with no grey in between, all elements given the same visual character. Unfortunately that character is destroyed with standard-def interlacing, the horizontal artifacts interrupting the all-vertical movements. Silent, so I watched with a couple of Craig Taborn piano tracks from the Avenging Angel album, which accounted for at least 75% of my enjoyment of the experience.


Apparatus Sum (1972)

Color fields, sometimes gently crossfading, sometimes strobing. Lingers on red for a long time. then, holy shit, is that a dead body, or what is happening? Freaky little movie, the second one in a row affected by low video quality (this time compression artifacts in the color fields), but I’ve run out of films from the beautiful Criterion blu-ray, so you get what you can get.


Not the First Time (1976)

A pier, shore birds, a person in red on the beach, always double-shot and superimposed out of sync, like a misaligned 3D camera, with frequent cuts to pure white. Short, silent.


Cadenza XIV (1977-80)

Prolonged marching band beat over black…
then… a smokestack with a laugh track
As the camera lingers on the flame atop the smoke stack, the obvious loop point of the repeated laugh track makes me wish for the return of the marching band.


Mindfall I & VII (1977-80)

Cartoon sfx as the camera goes, I dunno, just all over the place. Jittery footage of nature and architecture and what not. Wipe/iris transition mattes standing on their own between shots – like it cuts from the footage to the transition, instead of the footage itself wiping or irising. Between the video effects and the sound effects library and the single-frame flash edits before cuts to black, it feels like a prank, and one that last almost a half hour too long. I spaced out somewhat, reconsidering that dream of attending a complete screening of Frampton’s Magellan project. At least it has a closing shot that isn’t just a random rock or cactus, but approaching the shadow of the filmmaker on the side of a building. Sicinski liked this one, anyway.

Foolish boy gets job at decrepit baths, falls into the pool immediately. Young Susan shows him around, then his first customer keeps swatting him and saying “up yours,” and the next one becomes an overheated John Waters situation. Every woman in town is hot for this 15-year-old except for Susan, who gets him arrested when he tails her to an x-rated movie. I can’t follow the currency because I dunno the 1970 guinea-to-pound-to-quid ratio, but I can follow the Can soundtrack, which is very Can. The tone stays kinda cutesy and light, even as he slashes her married boyfriend’s tires and she knocks his tooth out. Ultimately when your protagonist is a creepy insecure mumblemouthed potentially-violent teenage boy, things aren’t gonna end well – he murders her, but still in a playfully cute way.

Mike D’Angelo:

Even as his behavior gradually becomes more and more troubling, less and less defensible, the film remains too messy for a simple flipped switch in which we belatedly decide that we’ve been watching a monster … Deep End is a portrait of adolescent horniness/haplessness that always seems to be headed for tragedy (and indeed is), yet foregrounds a kid who comes across as so innocent and absurd that it’s hard to do anything but smile indulgently at him.

Long takes of people moving slowly, dramatically across a single room, an air of seductive repression. The blu extras say he films “beautiful women suffering,” yet this is far more tolerable than the same year’s Bergman, which could be described the same way.

Petra is Margit Carstensen – I’ve seen her in Possession. She is very lazy, whining that her mom wants to borrow money, dictating a letter to Joseph Mankiewicz to her servant Marlene (Irm Hermann, a Fassbinder associate from the start). When friend Katrin Schaake visits she brings along young Hanna Schygulla. Hanna is married, husband off in Australia, seems unsophisticated. Petra gets her alone, offers her money and seduces her into a modeling job.

Katrin and Petra:

Hanna’s grand entrance:

Next time we see them, they’re gripey with each other and the power tables have turned, Hanna seeming to be in control of Petra’s actions and emotions. She learns that her husband has come to Germany, abruptly breaks up with Petra and leaves – so we saw their first and last day together. The next day Petra’s classist daughter visits (Eva Mattes, murdered wife of Woyzeck), Petra has a drunken breakdown in front of everyone, and Marlene finally leaves her.

Marlene:

Not the new feature, but the director’s early gay art film, before the technical innovation of sync dialogue. Definitely connected to the new film – one doctor’s body keeps growing mysterious organs – the word “secretions” appears often.

“I am Adrian Tripod, the director of this place, the House of Skin. In a sense, my present incarnation was generated by the mad dermatologist Antoine Rouge. The House of Skin began its existence as a residential clinic for wealthy patients who were treated for severely pathological skin conditions induced by contemporary cosmetics.”

Most of the the women in Canada are dead from Rouge’s Malady. Our narrator reports that mad prophet Antoine Rouge had disappeared after seizing control, the House now fallen into the hands of two interns. Our guy visits the Institute of Neo-Venereal Disease and spends a good amount of time giving foot rubs, is later invited to join a pedophile conspiracy worshipping underground spheres.

I’d seen this before – I think it was a bootleg VHS alongside Stereo – mainly leaving an impression from the architecture and the way it’s presented, which I still think about. The color of the HD restoration is really great, and the ideas are groovy, so I was being generous while watching, telling myself “the movie is not long and slow, the sound loops are not annoying,” but it is and they are. Glad to revisit it anyway – anticipation is very high for the new one.